The Gift of Singleness
TO MANY persons the idea of speaking of singleness as a gift seems very strange. They are unable to grasp how the denial of what they consider to be among life’s keenest pleasures (since with a Christian singleness includes chastity or continence) could possibly be termed a gift. Marriage, they reason, yes, but singleness a gift?
For our terming singleness a gift we have no less authority than the wisest and greatest man that ever lived, the Son of God. On one occasion, in discussing the subject with his disciples, he said: “Not all men make room for the saying, but only those who have the gift. For there are eunuchs that were born such from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him that can make room for it make room for it.”—Matt. 19:11, 12, NW.
Why did Jesus call singleness a gift? Because it is something that can be cultivated and used effectively to the advancement of the true worship in the earth and one’s own happiness even as other of God’s endowments can be. That the state of singleness has decided advantages for the Christian minister is apparent from the words of the apostle Paul: “Indeed, I want you to be free from anxiety. The single man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval. But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided. Further, the single woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in her body and in her spirit. However, the married woman is anxious for the things of the world, how she may gain the approval of her husband. But this I am saying for your personal advantage, not that I may cast a noose upon you, but to move you to that which is becoming and that which means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.”—1 Cor. 7:32-35, NW.
Truly, to be able to serve Jehovah God with undivided mind and heart, to be able to give his work our constant attention without distraction, is a gift, and one that should be highly prized. Yes, “he also that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better” because of the larger privileges of service and the corresponding greater happiness.—1 Cor. 7:38, NW.
Note also another argument Paul uses for making room for the gift of singleness in our lives: “Moreover, this I say, brothers, the time left is reduced.” (1 Cor. 7:29, NW) Because the time was reduced Jeremiah was commanded not to marry. (Jer. 16:2) Does not this argument have particular force in our day?
MAKING ROOM FOR THE GIFT
Some construe Jesus’ words to mean that the gift of singleness is not for everyone, and particularly not for them. Such, however, are trying to read something into Jesus’ words, something which he did not say. He showed that not all would make room for it, and that those who made room for this gift of singleness were those who “made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of the heavens”. The question may be asked of those who seek to make an exception, To what extent are they neglecting to follow Paul’s example to browbeat their body and to lead it as a slave? “The heart is treacherous above all things, and desperately sick—who can understand it?”—Jer. 17:9, AT; 1 Cor. 7:29; 9:26, 27, NW.
How does one make room for the gift of singleness? First of all by making a firm decision in his mind not to yield to any passion but to conserve his full vital powers and his freedom from marriage so as to better serve Jehovah. Such a determination will strengthen his self-control. Then one must make room for this gift just as he makes room in his life for the other gifts by self-denial, by taking time and energy to cultivate such gifts.
To do this we must absorb ourselves in the Lord’s work as did Paul. We may not say ‘I wish or would like to have the gift of singleness’ and then at the same time weaken the force of our wish or resolve by interesting ourselves in a particular one of the opposite sex and cultivating close intimacy with that one. No, we must go after this thing we want, the gift of singleness, and we must accept all the self-denials and the things required to enjoy it. We must make room for this gift in our future plans.
With the apostle Paul singleness was a practicable thing, and he went after it in a practical way. (1 Cor. 9:5) He was honest with himself and accordingly the gift was given him. In view of his gift so many responsibilities were laid upon him by the Lord that he had no time for considering marriage. He realized that he simply could not measure up to his responsibilities if he had the constant care and attention of a wife. That is why he also stated that if married Christians desired to take part in certain privileges they must to that extent act as if they were not married. Yes, they too must make room in their lives for such gifts as they would cultivate and use to Jehovah’s praise and to the blessing of others.—1 Cor. 7:29-31, NW.
But, whether married or single, let us use what gifts we have according to the wisdom God gives us through his Word and through his dealings with us. Let us humbly accept what privileges of service are extended to us, putting to use what ability and fitness we may have, not turning over to others what privileges and opportunities God has given us, which we ourselves may perform with such joy as we never knew before. Let each one show appreciation for the gifts God has given him and thus prove worthy of the great gift of everlasting life.